What to Know
- A grand jury has formally charged Nikolas Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.
- The 34-count indictment came from a Broward County jury on Wednesday afternoon.
- Cruz is being charged for allegedly killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14th.
A grand jury has formally charged Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the first degree and 17 counts of attempted murder in the first degree.
The 34-count indictment for Cruz came from a Broward County grand jury on Wednesday afternoon.
Cruz, 19, is being charged with allegedly killing 17 people in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Another 16 were wounded in the massacre.
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Cruz's public defender has said he'll plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table, which would mean a life prison sentence. The Broward County state attorney hasn't announced a decision on the death penalty.
James and Kimberly Snead, the couple who gave Cruz a home after his mother died late last year, testified before the grand jury Wednesday. Both James Snead and the couple's attorney, Jim Lewis, wore silver "17" pins to honor the victims of the shooting.
The couple is "trying to do the right thing" and is mourning along with the rest of the Parkland community, Lewis said.
"We'll let justice take its course at this point," Lewis said. "They still don't know what happened, why this happened. They don't have any answers. They feel very badly for everybody."
Cruz told investigators he took an AR-15 rifle to Stoneman Douglas on Valentine's Day and started shooting into classrooms.
Jail records released by the Broward Sheriff's Office show Cruz was being held in solitary confinement. Officers described Cruz as being cooperative but avoiding eye contact.
The report said Cruz "often sits with a blank stare," appeared to laugh and exhibited "awkward" behavior during and after a visit with an attorney and had one "family visit." Officers said Cruz also requested a Bible to read in his single-person cell in the infirmary.
His brother visited him twice, along with Rocxanne Deschamps, who took in both teens after their mother died in November. Cruz lived with Deschamps only briefly before moving in with the Sneads.
In Tallahassee, the Florida House was expected to vote on gun legislation stemming from the school shooting.
The legislation would put some restrictions on rifle sales, provide new mental health programs for schools and improve communication between school districts, law enforcement and state agencies. Democrats' efforts failed Tuesday to strip the bill of language that would create a program to arm some teachers and school employees who complete law enforcement training.
Two parents who lost children in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings told reporters that all the families of Parkland victims want the legislation to succeed.
Andrew Pollack, who lost his 18-year-old daughter Meadow, and Ryan Petty, who lost his 14-year-old daughter Alaina, said there was enough good in the bill that it should pass.
Meanwhile, the Parkland school hosted two dignitaries Wednesday: Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
DeVos told reporters that arming some teachers should be considered an option but not a requirement. As a model, she cited a program in Florida's Polk County where teachers or other employees at two private universities have trained with the sheriff's office so they can carry concealed weapons on campus.
DeVos said she spoke with students who lit up when talking about the therapy dogs brought to campus. Carly Novell, editor of the school's newspaper, said DeVos had little interaction with students and teachers during her hourlong visit.
"Most people were either angry that she was here or annoyed," Novell said.
Wade arrived during lunchtime and went straight to the cafeteria, where Novell said the 12-time NBA All-Star posed for photos and talked with students.
"He talked about change and what needed to happen, which is kind of funny to me — a government official did absolutely nothing, and a professional basketball player talked to us and was real with us," the 17-year-old senior said.
The Sun Sentinel reported a second student injured in the shooting has filed a letter of intent to sue the Broward Sheriff's Office, the school system and others. Doctors said one bullet tore through 15-year-old Kyle Laman's ankle and foot, according to a statement from The Berman Law Group, which is representing the teenager.
"Kyle is still dealing with memories of the terror he felt when his classroom was locked and he was stuck in the hallway during the shooting," the statement said. "The teacher couldn't get the door open fast enough. Everyone was running scared. Kyle looked at the gunman staring right back at him, and instinctively jumped for cover."
Separately, 15-year-old Anthony Borges and his parents have notified county officials of their plan to sue. Anthony was shot five times in his legs and torso and remains hospitalized, his attorney Alex Arreaza said.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information is made available.